The U.S. Navy should be ready to deploy its first-of-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1) USS Freedom in early March, says Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman, commander of the Naval Surface Force and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The ship is scheduled to deploy to Singapore to conduct some surface warfare missions, show the flag and impress allies in the region.

The deployment is also meant to help hone and prove the concept of operations, especially for logistics, Copeman said Jan. 7 during a roundtable discussion with the media.

The deployment is a major milestone for the Freedom, which has been plagued by a series of operational and fabrication issues. Making the Singapore deployment schedule has become a priority for the Navy.

One set of crewmembers has already been certified for the ship and the other one is being certified now, Copeman says. Then the ship has to “go in” to address some minor “maintenance” issues, Copeman says. “Shortly after that,” he says, “it goes.”

The Navy also has set up a maintenance schedule in Singapore of five days maintenance for every 30 days of actual deployment, Copeman says.

The admiral also confirms that while the LCS vessels still have an official core crew complement of 40, the Freedom will have 50 for this deployment to help beef up maintenance and watch-standing efforts.

The Navy has acknowledged the 10 extra sailors represent a pilot program to determine the actual number of sailors needed to operate the ship. That number, Navy officials say, still has yet to be determined.

Copeman says his biggest concern now is to make sure the Navy keeps a lid on costs, especially when it comes to maintenance.

“We’ve got to watch it,” Copeman says. “We’re slightly more dependent on shore infrastructure than other classes of ships.”